Protein punch

Protein punch

Protein is not only sought for its ability to improve muscle health and regulate the hormones in our body, but also for immunity-building, writes Neelanjana Singh

health

Warding off infections is a highly complex and well-orchestrated task that our immune system performs. It is our body’s first line of defence against bacteria, viruses, or for that matter any harmful substance. The immune system works by recognising the difference between the body’s cells and ‘alien’ cells, thereby destroying any potentially harmful organisms.

Immunity is the product of a range of factors and nutrients. The quality of our lifestyle is governed by factors such as sleep, diet, physical exercise and levels of stress. Cortisol, which is the stress hormone, weakens the immune system and makes us more prone to infections. Insufficient or poor sleep, on the other hand, is the cause of fewer immune cells being generated. This also makes the body more vulnerable to infections.

Protein, a macronutrient, is often sought for its ability to improve muscle health and regulate the hormones in our body. But it is also crucial for immunity building. Protein, composed of amino acids, makes up the framework of the body’s defence systems — antibodies, enzymes and hormones. The daily average protein requirement for a healthy adult is 1g of protein per kg body weight. For example, if the bodyweight of a sedentary or moderately active person is 70 kg, they will require 70g protein per day on an average. The quantity of protein must be matched by the quality of protein in the diet. Proteins consist of 9 essential amino acids. Most of the animal food sources, such as egg, chicken, fish, milk and milk products, are complete sources of proteins. Vegetarian sources, such as dals and nuts are good. Not many people know that protein is not stored in the body, which means that it is important to consume it daily. An adequate daily intake of proteins can assure us of a healthy and well-functioning immune system.

(The author is a dietician)